New York quartet Ambulance Ltd. sounds like several '60s rock bands, but the most '60s thing about "LP," the band's first longplayer, is that it doesn't sound like any of them too much. Such songs as "Stay Tuned" and "Heavy Lifting" have a musical-hall-rooted tunefulness that recalls the Beatles and the Kinks, and a modal guitar attack that suggests the Velvet Underground (whose "Ocean" is the album's hidden track). Yet these resemblances don't harden into a concept that shackles the music, nor does the band wield its eclecticism like a cudgel.
Take, for example, "Stay Where You Are." It opens with two minutes of ethereal, slowly building guitar, with what sounds like backward-tape effects. Just as the tune seems to be reaching a crescendo, however, it shifts into a melodic rocker set to a jaunty shuffle and augmented by brisk harmonies. Elsewhere, singer-guitarist Marcus Congleton's compositions are a tad countrified, moderately psychedelic or altogether swaggering -- and always gratifyingly inventive. "LP" is not boldly original, but in an age of paper-thin alt-rock, Ambulance Ltd.'s consistency and range are significant virtues.
-- Mark Jenkins
Appearing Friday at Fletcher's and Saturday at the Black Cat with the Thrills. * To hear a free Sound Bite from Ambulance Ltd., call Post-Haste at 301-313-2200 and press 8122. (Prince William residents, call 703-690-4110.)